President Emmanuel Macron has asserted that France is still “an Indo-Pacific power regardless of any contract,” following a three-way snub by the UK, US and Australia that saw Canberra bin a major French submarine deal.
Speaking on Tuesday at a press conference, Macron insisted that Australia’s decision to scrap the multi-billion-euro contract it had with France’s Naval Group does not change his country’s strategy in the region.
France remains “an Indo-Pacific power regardless of any contract,” Macron said, citing that it has “numerous joint operations and partners,” as well as more than a million “compatriots” and over “8,000 soldiers” in the region.
The president, who had just announced a deal with Athens to supply Greece with French frigates, called for Europeans to “stop being naive” in defending its interests and developing its own military capacities. “When we are under pressure from powers…we need to react and show that we have the power and capacity to defend ourselves,” he added. “Not escalating things, but protecting ourselves.”
The French government was openly angered when Washington, London and Canberra announced a deal almost two weeks ago to supply Australia with nuclear-powered, but conventionally armed, submarines. As a result of the triple alliance, Canberra scrapped a multi-billion-euro agreement it had signed with France in 2016, with the move apparently coming as a surprise to the French.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week addressed his French counterparts via ‘Franglais’ and implored France to “prenez un grip [get a grip] about all this and donnez-moi un break [give me a break]”.
The AUKUS pact tarnished relations between the three governments and Paris, with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian condemning the action as something that “isn’t done between allies.” Lashing out at Canberra in particular, he said that its ditching of the deal was a “stab in the back,” which broke France’s “relationship of trust with Australia.”
On top of its vocal criticism over the surprise deal, Paris recalled its ambassadors from Washington and Canberra in the wake of the snub, and canceled celebrations for the Battle of the Capes, a 1781 French naval victory over the British that helped America gain independence.
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